‘Angry’ over legal letter from O.J., missing set of keys and more from Part 1 of new docuseries

Ahead of the 30th anniversary of Nicole Brown Simpson’s death, her family and friends share stories of the woman behind the headlines in a Lifetime docuseries.

The Life & Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, airing June 1 and 2, paints the ex-wife of O.J. Simpson as a woman born into an idyllic family and raised in a “bubble.” Nicole had just turned 18 when she moved into a friend’s Hollywood apartment and landed a hostess job at the Daisy, a restaurant and disco frequented by celebrities. O.J., who was 12 years her senior and married, saw her there in June 1977 and pursued her.

Nicole’s sisters — Denise, Dominique and Tanya Brown — lend their voices and previously unseen home videos to tell her story. Family friends say the NFL star wooed her with his lavish life, moving her into his Brentwood estate, and molded her into a Hollywood trophy wife. They also say the abuse started immediately — and Nicole’s diaries, which she stored in a safe deposit box with photos of her bruises, help tell that story. After they divorced, Brown’s friends and family claim he stalked her and hid outside her home.

Nicole’s friends Kris Jenner, Faye Resnick, Robin Greer and Kato Kaelin are among the 50 participants. So are former police officers who responded to Nicole’s 911 calls and detectives investigating the June 12, 1994, fatal stabbings of Nicole and Ron Goldman.

Here’s what we learned during the first two episodes.

Nicole experienced violence on her first date with O.J. Her roommate, David LeBon, recalled her coming home from work saying she met “some football player” who “kept coming in.” She agreed to a date with the Naked Gun actor, initially unaware he was married and expecting his third child. O.J. picked up the teen in his Rolls-Royce. When Nicole got home that night, the zipper on her jeans had been ripped off. She told LeBon that O.J. had been “a little forceful.” LeBon wanted to confront him, but Nicole dissuaded him. It was too late, said Dominique. For Nicole, it was “love at first sight.”

Nicole’s friend likened Rockingham to the Playboy mansion. Nicole’s friend D’Anne Purcilly said O.J. tried to make his new girlfriend into a starlet. Another pal, Robin Greer, said the party was always at the couple’s estate — after O.J.’s first wife, Marguerite, and his kids moved out — comparing Rockingham to a “slightly cleaner version of the Playboy mansion,” with celebrities and beautiful women milling around. Nicole was “the lady of the manor” running the show, but let O.J. be the show.

O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson shown together holding drinks.O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson shown together holding drinks.

O.J. and Nicole at the Daisy circa 1977 in Los Angeles. (Brad Elterman/FilmMagic)

Denise witnessed abuse, photographed Nicole’s bruises. O.J.’s infidelity led to frequent blowups. Denise recalled an incident before the couple married when she was drunk and told O.J. he took her sister for granted. An enraged O.J. grabbed Nicole by the throat and pinned her to a wall, Denise said. Denise was unaware of other abuse until O.J. was arrested for spousal battery in 1989, for which he pleaded no contest. Nicole asked Denise to photograph her injuries, which included a split lip and black eye. Denise didn’t know what became of the photos until after Nicole’s death. They were found — along with her sister’s will, a diary documenting abuse and letters O.J. wrote apologizing for some of the violence — in a safe.

O.J. proposed to Nicole after she caught him with another woman. Seven years after they started dating, Nicole moved out of their home after she saw O.J. with another woman. To win her back, O.J. proposed the next day. “Everything [would] change” after they wed in February 1985, Denise said Nicole thought. “He’s going to become a new person. She wanted to believe it.”

Nicole said O.J. wouldn’t allow her to have vaginal births, breastfeed. Their daughter, Sydney, was born in October 1985. Denise said O.J. was horrible to her sister during her pregnancy, calling her a “fat ass” and telling her to diet. He also made controlling decisions, including that Nicole had to have a C-section and couldn’t breastfeed. In 1988, Nicole gave birth to their second child, Justin, while O.J. was having a tryst in their marital home, family friend Judie Manto said. In the wrongful death lawsuit filed against O.J. by the Brown and Goldman families, he admitted to a year-long affair with Tawny Kitaen.

Nicole Brown Simpson, Dominique Brown, Denise Brown, Juditha Brown, Louis Brown and Tanya Brown. Nicole Brown Simpson, Dominique Brown, Denise Brown, Juditha Brown, Louis Brown and Tanya Brown.

Brown Simpson with her family: Dominique, Denise, mom Juditha, dad Lou and Tanya. (The Brown Family/Lifetime)

O.J. went on a homophobic tirade when Nicole let a gay man hold Justin. On vacation over Christmas 1988, a fellow restaurant patron was smitten with the infant and held him. As he passed the child back to Nicole, he gave the baby a kiss on the head and “all hell broke loose,” according to Denise. In video of O.J.’s pal Al Cowlings discussing the incident during a deposition, he said Nicole replied to O.J.: “‘Why are you concerned about him being gay? Your father is gay.’” (The O.J.: Made in America documentary insinuated O.J.’s father was gay and that they had a complicated relationship.) Denise said O.J. went “crazy” on Nicole. Nicole wrote in her diary that O.J. had her “over the balcony” that night and she worried he would kill her.

Nicole’s mom didn’t want her to leave O.J. The Heisman winner was very close to Juditha, frequently calling his mother-in-law to tell her his side of the story amid fights with Nicole. When O.J. was arrested for spousal battery, Purcilly called Juditha and was surprised when she pointed a finger at Nicole. “‘Well, you know how she can have a sharp mouth,’” Purcilly recalled her saying. “I’m thinking: Huh?” Manto recalled telling Juditha, who died in 2020, that Nicole should separate from O.J. while determining her next step. She said Juditha disagreed, saying because O.J. was often away, Nicole should try to “avoid him and go about her own life” while keeping “her family intact.”

Nicole left O.J. in 1992 — and experienced “independence” for the first time. Greer helped Nicole find a rental and tell O.J. that she was leaving him. Nicole’s friend Ron Hardy said Nicole, at 32, experienced “independence for the first time in adult life.” She made new friends, tooled around Brentwood in her Ferrari and dated. She also complained to Resnick that O.J. was “stalking” her and hiding in her bushes. Kaelin, who lived in Nicole’s guest house, was there after O.J. broke the front doors off the hinges after seeing Nicole, through her window, kissing boyfriend Keith Zlomsowitch. The kids were home and “terrified,” Purcilly said. A police officer said it was fairly common to respond to calls from Nicole about O.J. from the rental.

Tanya Brown, Dominique Brown and Denise Brown. Tanya Brown, Dominique Brown and Denise Brown.

Tanya, Dominique and Denise participated in the doc. (Lifetime)

Nicole’s friends claim she had a relationship with O.J.’s friend Marcus Allen. Resnick said Nicole was comforted by Allen, also an NFL star, amid her divorce and things got romantic. Greer said Nicole saw Allen as “the new and improved O.J.,” but “didn’t want anyone to know they were carrying on this affair.” Nicole wrote about Allen in her diary, saying he made her feel special — but noting she should have been considerate of his engagement. An archival interview saw O.J. saying Nicole told him she slept with Allen. In deposition footage, he talked about warning Allen to stay away from Nicole. Allen denied a sexual relationship with Nicole.

Nicole briefly got back together with O.J. before splitting for good in May 1994. Nicole felt like O.J. would never leave her alone, Denise said, so she gave their marriage one last try at the end of 1993. Resnick and Greer said Nicole again found him too controlling and declared the relationship officially over. She received her settlement money from the divorce and bought her Bundy Drive home in January 1994. Purcilly said O.J. sent Nicole a letter from his lawyer saying he was going to report her to the I.R.S. and she was “angry he would threaten her and the children.” Nicole told Juditha that a set of keys to her house and front gate went missing and she was concerned O.J. took them, according to former LAPD Detective Tom Lange.

O.J. reportedly seethed over Nicole’s recital outfit. The Browns went to Sydney’s dance recital, and Denise recalled it being the first time O.J. wasn’t invited to sit with the family. He wasn’t invited to Mezzaluna, where the Browns dined, but drove by the restaurant. Nicole told Denise that he followed her “all the time.” Back at Rockingham, O.J. complained to Kaelin about the miniskirt Nicole wore, deeming it inappropriate. He also said he was going to play “hardball” with her by reporting her to the I.R.S.

At some point around 10 p.m. that night, Nicole was left nearly decapitated after being stabbed outside her new home. Goldman, the Mezzaluna waiter dropping off Juditha’s forgotten glasses, was fatally stabbed as well. O.J. was acquitted of double murder charges in 1995. In 1997, he was found liable for their deaths in a civil suit filed by the Brown and Goldman families.

For anyone affected by abuse and needing support, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or if you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.

The Life & Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson airs on June 1 and June 2 on Lifetime.

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